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Posted by Martin Walker on July 30, 2013, 10:33 am
Being a long-time Max addict, I was very interested in the two reviews of this reissue by Naxos by Byzantion and Rob Barnett. All reviews of this composer are welcome, but I confess to being slightly concerned in this case that a certain misapprehension - possibly fostered by scanty Naxos notes? - may take root. Byzantion writes 'Billed as a "motet for orchestra", the archaic spelling of the title reflects the plainchant sources the work draws upon.' Rob Barnett writes: 'The work’s title is taken from a thirteenth-century plainchant'. In fact, the spelling of the title is
that of the 13th C monody (not 'plainchant sources') which is the basis of this work. Such monodies, more texts than melodies of which have survived, are described as "sermons in song" in the learned liner notes to a Lyrichord recording, which can be found here: http://www.lyrichord.com/linernotes/Lems8005US.pdf
The text of the poem/sermon in question is also printed there. Byzantion has a right to display his ambivalence about this work - but I do find the crack 'anything but blissful' rather cheap, considering that the first line of the poem states quite clearly "Worldes blis ne last no throw, hit wit ant wend a-wey a-non". The poem is quite clearly not about blissful experiences, so the music isn't either. It might be best compared, by the way, with Nashe's wonderful 16th century "Adieu, farewell, earth's bliss", set so beautifully by Constant Lambert. That too has a sermon-like character, deriving from the association with the plague in Summer's Last Will and Testament.
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